Franklin Graham isn’t sure how his father will celebrate his 97th birthday on Nov. 7, but he can almost guarantee one thing.
There will be cake.
“Last year, he got 15 birthday cakes sent to him,” Franklin Graham told the media Thursday at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. “And he took one bite from each cake.”
Franklin Graham spoke candidly at the museum’s unveiling of the “North Carolina’s Favorite Son” exhibit, which features Billy Graham’s life and ministry. Franklin talked about how his father is doing—overall, well, he said, with the normal age-related symptoms of a soon-to-be 97-year-old.
But as his life work and calling is about to be on display for the next eight months in stunning detail—bringing light and life to all who visit the 5,000-square-foot exhibit—Mr. Graham continues to wrestle with one ailment at his mountain home.
“He misses my mother very much,” Franklin Graham said, pausing just for a moment. “He loved her very deeply. There’s been a hole in his heart ever since my mother went to be with the Lord.”
In 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a resolution honoring the life of Ruth Bell Graham, who passed away in 2007, and named Billy Graham “North Carolina’s Favorite Son.” To commemorate this, an exhibit was developed—funded by regional Billy Graham Evangelistic Association donors passionate about the project—and titled “North Carolina’s Favorite Son: Billy Graham and His Remarkable Journey of Faith.”
Beginning with the Tent Revivals of the 1949 Los Angeles Crusade, winding through London (’54), New York (’57) and South Africa (’73), displays focus on how God used a North Carolina farm boy to reach more than 215 million people worldwide for Christ.
It also highlights Mr. Graham’s most recent Gospel message, The Cross, which released on his 95th birthday (Nov. 7, 2013).
“He never wavered in his message,” Franklin Graham said. “The message is still the same—that God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son …”
One section of the exhibit chronicles the 1973 Seoul, South Korea, Crusade—which drew 3.2 million people over five days—and gives a rare, behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the making of Billy Graham events.
“If my father was here, he’d say there’s too much Billy Graham,” Franklin Graham said. “He would want the attention to be given to Jesus Christ.”
The exhibit is similar to the Billy Graham Library’s Journey of Faith tour, but includes many exclusive features and displays. There’s trivia, including which North Carolina sports team Billy Graham cheered for. There’s historical Crusade audio testimonies from people like Johnny Cash (’78 Las Vegas), Pete Maravich (’87 Columbia, South Carolina), Elizabeth Dole (’93 Columbus, Ohio) and Kurt Warner (’99 St. Louis).
There’s also video archive features like Mr. Graham’s 9/11 message at the National Cathedral just a few days after the national tragedy, and displays documenting his relationship with former presidents, world leaders and Unbroken war hero, Louis Zamperini.
“Billy Graham, a native son of North Carolina, is known for his positive impact in our state and around the world,” said Ken Howard, director of the N.C. Museum of History.
“You cannot separate the man from the message,” added Tom Phillips, BGEA vice president. “This is really a story of a North Carolinian. This is a major part of the spiritual life of our state.”
The free exhibit is open through July 10, 2016.
For decades, Billy Graham has preached about the lasting hope found only through a relationship with Christ. Do you have that kind of hope? You can.